A rocky, unoccupied islet right at the mouth of Elounda’s natural port -originally part of Crete, which was carved out during Venetian occupation for defensive purposes.
The Venetians were the ones who named the island as well, since spina longa means long thorn in Italian. From fortress to leper colony -from 1903 to 1957- Spinalonga has been a symbol, a strategic point, an inspiration. Victoria Hislop’s bestselling novel The Island takes place here, and since its publication -which spawned a Greek television series called To Nissi (The Island)- Spinanolga has become the second most popular destination in Crete.
A shroud of mystery covers its empty, narrow streets and the ruins of Venetian and Turkish homes, even in broad daylight. In addition, the lack of accommodation and the visiting restrictions -all tours last only a few hours- create
a unique and fascinating atmosphere for its visitors.
Spinalonga is easily accessible by boat from both Elounda (15′) and Aghios Nikolaos (60′) as tourist boats depart from both towns on a daily basis.
PLACES TO VISIT
Whether you are a cultural aficionado, a nature lover or an urban explorer, there’s much to see and even more to do. Crete’s past and present intertwined in magical landscapes, unique monuments and exciting venues!
Just 5km south of Heraklion lays Knossos. A Minoan city that flourished during the Bronze Age more than 4 millennia ago and remained a significant trade and cultural centre for almost 1,500 years. Its main site is the Minoan Palace on the Kephala hill, a once 20,000 sq.m. multi-storey building which was the seat of legendary king Minos. It includes a vast number of living areas and workshops, and it’s connected to various Greek myths -such as the trip of Theseus, the Minotaur and the Labyrinth, and of course the life of the famous craftsman Daedalus and his son Icarus.
The Palace’s extensive reconstruction was carried out by archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. Today, its unique architectural, structural and artistic features have made Knossos a top tourist destination in Greece, second only to Athens’ Parthenon.
Another Minoan-era landmark is the ancient city of Olounda -or Olous. At its peak, almost 30,000 people were living in one of ancient Crete’s most vibrant corners. It was a worship center for Artemis Britomartis (“sweet maid”) and Zeus, and remained a significant urban center up to the early Byzantine Period. Today, part of the ancient city’s sunken ruins are visible on calm days in the Elounda bay.
The CretAquarium -or Thalassokosmos in Greek- was founded and operates as part of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) and it’s a unique attraction on a national scale. A kaleidoscope of the Mediterranean ecosystems and marine life, it presents the sea’s unique biodiversity through 60 different tanks which host 2,000 sea animals and more than 2,000 different species from the entire basin. CretAquarium attracts thousands of visitors every year, and it’s open all year long.
Opening hours (Monday to Sunday) 09:30 – 21:00 (from 01/5 to 15/10) 09:30 – 17:00 (From 16/10 to 30/4)
For more than 20 years now, Balkan’s first and Crete’s most popular water park is located just 5km from the town of Hersonissos. An ideal destination for the entire family, whether you’re an adrenaline aficionado -its adults-only section with its extreme slides will definitely satisfy you- or you simply want to spend some quality time in an original destination -for this, there is a children’s section, plus a gorgeous garden with an exciting local and exotic flora. And last but not least, the park’s fascinating view will definitely leave you breathless!
A small town with an amazing couleur locale, on the western side of the Gulf of Mirabello. Its center point is Lake Voulismeni or Apatos (bottomless), a deep body of water -according to Greek Mythology, Athena and Artemis bathed in it and since then is bottomless- connected to the sea by a narrow inlet. Once you get to feel familiar with the place, you will sense its traditional character, originality and plethora of choices for its visitor. If you’re into shopping, the woven fabrics, local delicacies and home deco choices will definitely attract your attention. Fine dining is also one of the city’s assets, plus its harbourside nightlife will definitely tempt you!
Once, a small fishing settlement which connected the mainland with Spinalonga’s leper colony. Today, it remains a cozy, traditional destination with small family-owned taverns and lovely old houses. Plaka is a picturesque destination, with relatively few in-town accommodation choices but with many vivid and colorful local images.
Where the sun always shines!
There’s sunny Greece. And there’s ever-sunny Elounda. From April to October, its visitors have the privilege to enjoy a unique climate, where the ideal temperatures meet a refreshing summer breeze and rain is an almost unknown word! Elounda’s average temperature (26°C) and monthly rainfall (1.6 days) prove that it is not by coincidence one of Greece’s top luxury destinations!